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Proposal to Ban Bull Bars in the EAC

Case for banning bull bars


The use of bull bars (also roo bar, nudge bar, brush bars, bush bars) started in Australia, where they were designed as 'roo bars-short for kangaroo-to prevent kangaroos from being scooped up by the sloping bonnets of vehicles on impact and going into the passenger's space.

A bull bar is not essentially designed for the protection of the driver against impact in an accident but designed for use in the more remote areas off road to shield against wild animals and minor accidents that would damage and strand the vehicle in wilderness.

 Currently bull bars are used in the EAC in the belief that they prevent disabling and trivial damage to the fronts of vehicles. They are also being sold because they are aggressive in appearance and will intimidate other road users with the message, "This vehicle is tougher, harder and stronger than you. Keep out of my way." They have also become a declaration of the life style of the person.

Research and experiments indicate that bull bars create adverse effects during impact and may defeat the effectiveness of the protection already provided by the design of vehicles during accidents. There are crumple zones in vehicles to cushion off and absorb the impact energy in accidents so that the least possible energy is transmitted to the drivers and passengers. Rigid bull bars, mostly installed on the vehicle chassis, impair the function and effectiveness of the crumple zone in case of accidents, thus transmitting most of the impact energy onto the drivers, causing serious injury.

Research also shows that most pedestrian injuries are normally caused by frontal impact. Given that bull bars are often installed at the chassis and made of material harder than the vehicle fronts, they are more likely to inflict more injury on pedestrians than vehicles without such an attachment. Their higher position in the vehicle fronts also makes such bull bars particularly hazardous to young children, as the main heavy-duty cross bar is at head-height or above.

Studies by safety organisation and independent scientists, Britain, Germany and Australia, have concluded that the rigid metal structure concentrates and multiplies the force of impact at the level of a child's head and vital organs.

Some manufacturing companies have altered the bars' image by changing the name from the aggressive bull or nudge bar to the protector bar and are selling them to owners of vans. The term protector bar is deceptive. Research proves it to be entirely inappropriate, but some van drivers feel that they are under threat because they have no engine but only a thin layer of metal between them and the rest of the road traffic. Manufacturers of vans adamantly deny that there is any truth in the belief that those vans are inherently dangerous. Even if it were true, it would be unforgivable for people to make themselves safer by greatly magnifying the risk to other road users, including pedestrians and cyclists.

All the research has proved that bull bars fitted on four-by-fours or vans increase the severity of injuries and multiply the number of deaths not only for the people who are hit but for the passengers and drivers of the vehicles on which they are fitted, for reasons that we all understand. Bull bars stiffen the fronts of vehicles and destroy the vital controlled shock absorption that is designed into vehicle fronts. The forces of the crash are transferred from the vehicle and the impact hits the bodies of those inside, increasing their injuries.

Bull bars also interfere with the operation of air bags because the sensors are put out. The bags can inflate unnecessarily, but may well not be activated when they are required in a smash. By wrecking the aerodynamic profile-they alter what are known as the laminar boundary layers-the weight and the drag of the vehicle are increased, thus adding greatly to fuel costs, air pollution, tyre wear and making handling more difficult.

Few studies have been carried out on the extra injuries caused to passengers in vans, but studies in Australia showed that no extra safety is to be gained by the use of bull bars. In detailed studies in Australia it was found that injuries were likely to increase as the force was concentrated into a smaller area. In one accident examined, the bull bar changed shape and inflicted injuries to the top part of the body of many people in the van.

Bull bars vary considerably in size and form, and are usually made of welded steel or aluminium tubing, and, more recently, moulded polycarbonate and polyethylene materials. Due to the number of deaths and injuries caused by cars with rigid metal bullbars (in 2000 some 2,000 deaths/year and 18,000 serious accidents/year in Europe), the sale of metal bullbars was banned in the European Union via Directive 2005-66-EC.

In recent times bullbars have become popular as a cosmetic accessory, particularly on the larger four wheel drive and Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs). Studies and media attention to them and their role in increasing pedestrian deaths led to an agreement with the European Union among carmakers not to install them on new vehicles from January 1 2002. This was followed by a full EU ban on the sale of rigid bullbars (e.g., by aftermarket fitters).

Vehicle manufactures are continuing to improve the design of vehicles to make them safer for motorists and pedestrians. The fitting of a bullbar simply nullifies the effects of these improvements.

Negative effects of bull bars
  • Bullbars significantly increase the likelihood of death, maiming and injury to pedestrians. The Federal Office of Road Safety in Australia estimates that in 1992, 14% of pedestrian deaths could be attributed to bullbars. This is approximately 1 death per week.
  • Drivers and passengers are at greater risk of death or injury in motor vehicle crashes when struck by a vehicle fitted with a bullbar, especially in side-intrusion crashes.
  • Drivers of vehicles fitted with bullbars increase the risk of death and injury to themselves and their passengers because bullbars reduce the life-saving effect of the crumple-zones which are built into all modern vehicles.
  • Bullbars are already illegal in accordance with most traffic acts which variously state: "No vehicle shall be equipped with any object or fitting, not technically essential which protrudes from any part of the vehicle so that it is likely to increase the risk of bodily injury to any person".
  • It is only a matter of time before the legal fraternity discovers the enormous number of potential defendants in damages claims. Owners of vehicles fitted with bullbars leave themselves wide open to financial liability and culpability if it can be shown that the death or injury of another person was a result of a bullbar being fitted to a vehicle in contravention of traffic legislation.
  •  Recent low-speed simulated crash tests reveal that vehicles fitted with bullbars are significantly more expensive to repair.
  • Vehicles fitted with bullbars have the potential to alter the air-bag triggering mechanism in vehicles fitted with air-bags.
  • Apart from the grief, pain and suffering, it is estimated that every death on our roads costs enormous fortunes on families, employers and insurance firms.
Recommendation to Councils:
  • No person shall use on a road a motor vehicle to which a bull bar is attached. No person shall manufacture, import, distribute, sell or fit bull bars in which description with the Community. Offenders shall be liable to no less than 12 months in jail or a fine of USD 20 000 or both.
  • In order to ensure that motor vehicles used in the EAC are safe in terms of the frontal protection, Council will, by June 2010, adopt the following East African Standard:
  • CD/K/020:2008, Motor vehicle safety - Protection equipment for the front of motor vehicles
  • Stakeholders are invited to submit comments on the proposed ban and the enabling standard by immediately and no later than 31st March 2010.
  • All comments to be submitted through the respective National Standards Bodies or to the EAC Secretariat.
see also
Consumers International
www.consumersinternational.
org

Uganda Consumers' Protection Association (UCPA)
http://ucpa.eac-quality.net

Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA)
www.tfda.or.tz

Uganda National Bureau of Standards list of certified products as at April 2010